It's the moment Glee fans everywhere have been dreading: the "Farewell to Finn" episode. But even if you were just a casual viewer or tuned in for the very first time to rubberneck, you probably shed a tear during the emotionally charged special episode (simply titled "The Quarterback").
Ever since star Cory Monteith, who played sensitive football player-turned-singer Finn Hudson, died of a drug overdose on July 13th at age 31 there's been a big question mark as to how the show would handle his death. Last night they finally answered the question. Well, sorta.
While Finn was indeed killed off, it was never revealed how he died – suicide? Car accident? Art-imitating-life overdose? We'll never know.
"What can you say about a 19-year-old who dies? Everyone wants to talk about how he died, but who cares? It's one moment in his whole life," said step-brother Kurt at the beginning of the episode, laying the groundwork for the weighty blurred lines of reality the rest of the episode would travel along. When a character spoke, it was hard to discern whether what they were saying was fact, fiction or something in between. But one thing's for sure: every tear shed was real.
The Aftermath of Finn's Death
The entire episode focused on Finn's death – which happened three weeks prior in Glee land – although, barring a few photos, there were no flashbacks.
New Directions members old and new opened the show solemnly singing the iconic "Seasons of Love" from Rent while dressed in black. (Conspicuously missing: ex-girlfriend Quinn, played by Dianna Agron, and Brittany.) Their words hung heavy in the air: "Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes, how do you measure a year in a life? In truths that she learned, or in times that he cried, in bridges he burned, or the way that she died?"
Also conspicuously (but understandably) missing for most of the show: Rachel Berry, played by Monteith's real-life girlfriend Lea Michele. Kurt left her behind in NYC to return to McKinley High School for the memorial tribute put together by glee club coach Will Schuester.
Once there, Kurt helps with a "memorial garden" erected by coach-turned-principal Sue Sylvester near the football field – consisting of a lone baby tree. After rattling off a seemingly inappropriate comment about how the chosen spot was where she once found Finn and Quinn "fondling each other," Sue said, "We honor Finn Hudson by . . . helping the people he loved move on, by not making a self-serving spectacle of our own sadness."
But sadness fills every aspect of the episode.
One of the more emotional moments comes when Kurt, father Burt (Finn's step-dad) and Finn's mother Carole clean out Finn's room. With pictures strewn everywhere, they reminisce about the "faggy" lamp that had once caused a big rift between the brothers – and ultimately taught even Kurt's own father about tolerance. When Kurt spots Finn's signature varsity jacket, he wraps himself in it and smells the fabric before saying through tears: "Seeing him in the hallway in this, it was like Superman had arrived." And indeed, he will be sorely missed.
Santana and Puck Break Down, Finn's Jacket Goes Missing
When Sue tries to dismantle a makeshift memorial shrine that students have created in front of Finn's locker, Santana angrily confronts the interim principal. The former Cheerio calls her one-time coach "a cold-hearted bitch" who made Finn's life miserable. "He always hated you!" she screams before shoving Sue into a bookshelf and storming off.
Meanwhile, Puck is in the boy's locker room drowning his sorrows in booze when Coach Beiste confronts him. He can't keep up this behavior; he's been drunk the last three weeks. When she tells him he needs to start grieving he yells: "If I start crying, I don't think I'll ever stop!" before trashing the locker room and eventually breaking down in her arms.
He comes to terms with his feelings by singing Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender" about two "blood brothers" while staring at Finn's empty chair in the glee club rehearsal room.
Then, after singing "If I Die Young" by the Band Perry as her own impromptu tribute, the usually thick-skinned Santana also breaks down, running away from her fellow glee clubbers when they try to console her. But Kurt tracks her down in the auditorium, where he gives her Finn's precious jacket as a keepsake. It's a hot item – one that everyone seems to want to get their hands on. (Puck had earlier demanded it from Kurt because he felt he was a better-suited owner.)
When Santana takes the jacket off to lie down, someone steals it, prompting allegations it was Puck, which he vehemently denies. The mystery remains unsolved before he leaves Lima, telling Coach Beiste that he's joining the Air Force and carving the word "quarterback" into the tree that was planted.
While searching for the jacket, Santana apologizes to Sue, who sadly admits: "You were absolutely right. I was horrible to him. And I'm utterly destroyed knowing he died thinking I didn't like him. There's no lesson here, no happy ending, there's just nothing. He's just gone. It's just so pointless, all that potential . . ."
Rachel Returns to McKinley
Forty-two minutes into the show, Rachel shows up – and it's absolutely heartbreaking. "Nobody treat me with kid gloves," she says with a quiver in her voice before singing "Make You Feel My Love" as tears stream down her face.
When she talks to Mr. Schue alone, she tells him that she's heard he's been "a rock" through all this. And he admittedly says he hasn't been able to come to terms with it yet. When he turns the subject back to her, asking how she's been, she says she always thought she and Finn would live "happily ever after."
She then hangs a special plaque she had made on the rehearsal room wall – a photo of Finn with the quote, "The show must go on . . . all over the place . . . or something." A touching Finn-ism that the show should have ended on.
Instead, we're left with Mr. Schue sobbing hysterically at home, where it's revealed that he's the one who stole the jacket, before the screen goes black and Monteith's name sits silently in tribute.
And with that, Finn Hudson is gone.
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